Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book gives keen insight into Korean history

A Review of Korean History” written by Han Young-woo, professor emeritus at Seoul National University, explores the nation’s history from its birth to the present.

The English version of the Korean history book published by Kyongsaewon Publishing translated by Hahm Chai-bong is divided into three volumes _ “Ancient/Goryeo Era,” “Joseon Era” and “Modern/Contemporary Era”_ along with detailed descriptions and some 700 photos and illustrations.

A Review of Korean History (English)
Han Young-woo; Translated by Ham Chai-bong from Korean to English; Kyongsaewon Publishing

Vol. 1: Ancient/Goryeo Era 384 pp.
Vol. 2: Joseon Era 320 pp.
Vol. 3: Modern/Contemporary Era 318 pp.

Since the first edition of the book was published in 1997 with a revised edition in 2004, it has become a steady-seller in Korea with 39 editions until the end of 2009. The book was also translated into Japanese in 2003 by Akashi Shoten Publishing.

The first volume of the English rendition illustrates the roots of Korean history, old Joseon and other ancient states along with the Three Kingdoms.

The second volume focuses on the Joseon Kingdom from its foundation to the reform of the ruling system, economic development, culture, internal conflicts and foreign invasions.

The third volume probes the birth and growth of modernism, dawning with the peasant uprisings and reforms to the rise and fall of the Korean Empire, the Japanese colonial rule and Korea`s independence movement. It also deals with the Korean War (1950-53) and reconstructions in the mid-1900s and political upheavals in the 20th century.

The book puts more emphasis on the Joseon era _ the author described researching the Joseon Kingdom gave him the joy of discovering “hidden treasures” as he enhanced his understanding about the cultural values of the Confucian state during his four-year term as the head of the Kyujanggak Archives.

Jung Ok-ja, chairwoman of the National Institute of Korean History, reviewed the book, saying that the author seems to suggest a new milestone for the 21st century through this book. “Cautious about both narrow-minded nationalism and globalism’s relative lack of identity, he pursues a humanitarian society centered on coexistence and co-prosperity. Such a view of history seems to be aligned with neo-nationalism, from among the various approaches of modern historiography. Rooted in a positivist historiography, a major approach in modern historiography, the author has built a basic academic foundation from which he conveys a neo-nationalist view of history,” wrote Jung.

The book gives keen insights not only on historical incidents and perspectives but also cultural fields such as literature and music, commerce and international trade, and geomancy and Taoism. The publication is also helpful for foreigners who are interested in Korean history and culture.

The 72-year-old author was former dean of the College of Humanities at Seoul National University and dean of Kyujanggak Archives and director of Korean Studies.

For more information or inquiries, call (031) 955-7441-3, or visit

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